It’s a Friday, and my supermarket mission is simple: pick up ground beef, pasta, eggs, raw peanuts and Cheddar cheese. No sweet things. No J$100-pastry. No Tropical Kitchen.
I pride myself on controlling my sugar intake. I have one or two sweet treats per week or none at all. This was the none-at-all week. Major shopping was already done. I would fly through Ochi, grab di handful a tings and leave.
I can see women across the globe shaking their heads, saying, “Poor dear. So delusional.”
And you’d be right.
My first stop is a big Chinese supermarket on DaCosta Drive. I find eggs, pasta, beef and raw peanuts. Below the peanuts is a bin loaded with lovely local Irish potatoes. I bag a few and drop them in my cart with a tray of yellow corn (because is long time I don’t eat corn).
I swing by the refrigerator and scan the cheeses. Too expensive. My regular supermarket has Cheddar on special. But I don’t want to go there for a second time this week; don’t want them to get too use to me. Plus you have to spread the spending, right? One place cyan get all yuh money.
Adjacent to the cheeses are bundles of fat, healthy scallion and freshly cut, local pumpkin. Yuh si di pumpkin? I know you wouldn’t pass it up either.
I make a quick run to the snack aisle for banana chips and my new favourite, Voltz cheese balls.
My Jamaican friends, if you haven’t been home in a while and don’t mind light, salty snacks, now and then, try these the next time you visit. They’re one of the newer snacks on the market.
In the snack aisle, I’m accosted by a promo rep. Right, I forgot. Mother’s Day weekend. These ladies will be out in their numbers, taking up aisle-space, offering samples, two-for-one specials, giveaways, yadda yadda yadda.
The rep is inveigling me to buy an eight-pack of Shirley biscuits. Now, my sister will tell you that from I likkle bit, I love Shirley biscuits. As a child, I use to dance to the ad, eat around the biscuit-edges then pop the middle in my mouth or break the biscuits in two and rub the edges together to make crumbs then eat the crumbs.
But, today, no Shirley biscuits. My mandate to self is clear: no sweets. I tell the rep I’m trying to be good, and Shirley biscuits just not supporting that cause right now. She says I can eat them with cheese (to make me feel less guilty, I guess). I smile, turn her down gently. We say farewell. I move on.
I exit the supermarket with everything on my list except cheese. I want cheese. I’m not going home without cheese. I hold my head straight, walk past the J$100-pastry place that sells unusual but tasty pastry for only J$100 dollars each–that’s any pastry for less than a US buck–and head to another Chinese supermarket.
My non-Jamaican friends, when I say Chinese (some Jamaicans say, Chiney, Missa Chin or Miss Chin), I’m referring to the heritage or nationality of the supermarket owner. Why should the owner’s heritage or nationality matter, you ask. Really and truly, it doesn’t.
Jamaicans have a decades-long habit of referring to Chinese-looking people as Miss Chin, Missa Chin or Chiney; Syrian-looking people as Syrians; Indian-looking people as Indians and Caucasian-looking people as Jamaican White. It doesn’t matter if your last actual Chinese/Syrian/Indian/Caucasian ancestor sailed over on a banana boat back in the 1800s and married an African. If you have a distinguishing, physical feature of the non-African race then you’re also associated with that other race.
For example, “Miss Chin” could be Jamaican-born with African, Chinese and Indian ancestry, coarse hair, light-brown skin and Chinese eyes and doesn’t speak a word of Chinese. Is a simple ting.
We’re a diverse nation. Our motto, “Out of Many One People”, speaks to that. On this island, you’ll find a population whose roots span at least four of the seven continents: Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. We also have deep familial connections in Central American countries like Panama and Costa Rica.
You’ll find descendants of Africans, British, East Indians, Chinese, Germans, Portuguese (Jews), Spanish (Jews), Syrians, Lebanese, French and Amerindians in JA. The presence of these groups dates back at least 100 years.
So, my foreign friends, although most Jamaicans–over 90%–are of African descent, many of us also have roots in other ethnic groups. I’m tempted to talk about my own family at this time, but that will require a whole book plus a sequel.
In Jamaica, certain groups have become strongly associated with certain trades because it’s what they’ve been doing since they docked at the harbour.
For example, walk into a jewellery store and you’ll probably find owners of Indian descent or from India. Walk into a wholesale or retail food outlet and you’ll likely find owners of Chinese descent or from China. The whole set up is as natural to Jamaicans as adding ginger or lime to every drink to “bring up” di flavour. It is a part of our tradition.
These groups are known for their ability to negotiate, wheel and deal and sell you that thing you’ve always wanted at a bargain price–take it or leave it. I don’t know about you, but I love bargains–like J$100-pastry.
I reach the second supermarket. No Cheddar. So I’m back at my regular supermarket, and sure enough, they have Cheddar. On special. So I pick up a tray plus a bottle of local mayonnaise then make a spur of the moment decision to get a disposable baking tray from aisle one. And there, my downfall awaited. My mandate went sailing down the Rio Grande.
Two promo reps stop me in my tracks to sell me a box of Betty Crocker cake mix for a chance to win a NutriBullet. I have a juicer at home. I don’t need a NutriBullet. I can make my own cakes from scratch. I don’t need cake mix.
So, I exit the supermarket, done for the day, with my chance to win a NutriBullet secured in the drop box behind the cashier.
Catch yuh next time!
Peace and love